MY STREET CHALLENGE - JEFFERIES AVENUE

Once again, I decided that I needed to get up early before the world and his wife get going on a Saturday morning and Mr. HCB said he would accompany me as we had to go over to the other side of our town to get to Jefferies Avenue.  It’s getting darker in the mornings, but just after 6.30 a.m. the sun was rising and I loved the way the houses in the avenue were silhouetted in the centre shot.

According to a little book entitled “Roadways” this street or avenue was built in 1937 in memory of (John) Richard Jefferies, who was a local naturalist and novelist, best known for his writing on natural history, rural life and agriculture in late Victorian England, to mark the 50th anniversary of his death in 1887, when he was only 38 years old.  

Jefferies Avenue is a tree-lined street of mainly semi-detached houses with many of them overlooking Crowdy’s Hill School, a special school for pupils aged 4-19 with complex needs.  There is obviously a lot of building work going on at the school during the summer holidays. 

Our friend, Elizabeth, who featured in one of my Blips here,  
attended Crowdy’s Hill School and I remember that she was very good at Art and even had an Art Exhibition at her home to show all that she had achieved at the school.  

I also have a friend who is now retired, who taught English, music and drama there for 12 years.  She told me last night, when I spoke to her, that there was always a lovely atmosphere at the school, so although I have no personal knowledge of the school I know people who do and have spent many happy years there.

Thamesdown Hydrotherapy Pool, also situated in Jefferies Avenue, is a purpose-built facility and anyone with a disability is welcome - whether that disability is a permanent or temporary one, such as after an accident.  The only association we had with this is when our son was injured in an accident in 1989 and used to go there for rehabilitation.  My memories of the pool are that the water was always warm, the staff friendly and I loved accompanying our son - it was just like getting into a warm bath!  I remember that the Manager at the time, Paul Charlwood, was always very encouraging, even when some of those attending weren’t that keen to get in!  The THP is a charity and as such, relies on fund-raising to keep it running - and even now, 37 years after it opened, many people still support this worthy cause.

When I stopped to take the photograph of the actual street name, I was delighted, when looking out over Swindon to the south, to see Christ Church, known as "The Old Lady on the Hill", Swindon’s Parish Church.  It’s quite misty, but it was before 7.30 in the morning!

On our way home, I had intended that we would visit the Richard Jefferies' Museum, which is just down the road from where we live, but in our haste to get back, we forgot and I was going to forego this visit.  However, I decided that I would just drive back down there whilst Mr. HCB had his well-earned breakfast, and I’m glad I did.  

The double gates at the side were open, so I went round to the back of the Museum and there I met a cyclist (who looked as if he was well into his 70s) who was also looking round.  I thought he might be a warden of some sort, so I explained that I was doing a street challenge for my Blip Journal and then had a very interesting conversation with him.  He said he was nothing to do with the Museum but was very interested in Richard Jefferies, as his wife’s ancestors were named Baden, and he reminded me that Richard had married a Jessie Baden.  He told me about the quote that was on the wall of the back of the house, written so that it looked like Richard Jefferies’ head - which is in the middle left of the collage. 

Richard Jefferies was born in 1848, in a thatched farmhouse, built in the early 18th century, known as Coate Farm, near Swindon.  The small dairy farm came into his family in 1800 and was a smallholding of about 36 acres.  The freehold of the farm was purchased by Richard Jefferies' great-grandfather for £1,100 and the property was then known locally as “Jefferies Farm” but the name was later changed by Richard Jefferies to Coate Farm.  Richard spent a lot of his childhood exploring Coate Water, observing nature and the wildlife there and also writing about what he saw and heard.  You can find out more about Richard Jefferies here.

Coate Water is now a country park, but was originally built as a reservoir in 1822  by diverting the River Cole, to provide water for the Wilts and Berks Canal.  The little blue doorway is the entrance to the Museum, which is now on the main, very busy road into Swindon, and there is also a photograph of the thatched farmhouse at the bottom right of the collage.  The gardens around were beautifully kept, as were the farm buildings, together with the original pig-sties but there were no pigs!  I can’t believe we have lived in this area for over 30 years and have never visited - we will certainly be remedying that in the near future.  

It is eternity now. 
I am in the midst of it. 
It is about me in the sunshine; 
I am in it, as the butterfly floats in the light-laden air. 
Nothing has to come; 
it is now. 
Now is eternity; 
now is the immortal life.
Richard Jefferies : The Story of my Heart, 1883

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